Bloodstains On The Looking Glass

A ribald old-timey revue, featuring the Scots Flying Monkey Battalion and Shakey Pervy Pete, the Inelegant Dinner Guest.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Just To Clarify...

Some people have seemingly read my screed below as another bash against fan-fiction.

Nothing could be further from the truth, except for perhaps something that was very far from the truth, indeed.

Not only do I have nothing against fan-fiction, I think it's a vital and often hugely entertaining part of various genre communities, and I find the creators who rage against it to mostly be pretty silly. I submit that fan-ficcery is likely to create sales, rather than lose them, as it helps to build a sense of belonging and participation that cannot be manufactured by publishers. I LIKE that it's an end-user-driven process, and hat's off to those who engage in it. To me, it's a compliment.

I also think it makes swell practice for aspiring writers, particularly genre authors. I think it's crucial to know when to put fan-fic away, if one is genuinely trying to get one's work published. Fan-fic can be a set of training wheels sometimes (I say this not condescendingly, but as a simple observation of ficcers I've watched in the past), and it's important to know when to take those wheels off.

Also, I don't get why fan ART is somehow okay, but fan WRITING is obviously the work of morons and regression cases. Our industry should be grateful for readers who are dedicated enough to want to share their own visions of stories and characters we publish. Alas, the self-hate and contempt that riddles comics on every level is at work here.

I do have to add here that I no longer read any fan-fic. The major companies (as well as common legal sense) strongly suggest that it's not a good idea. But if you want to write your own stories based on my work, it's certainly fine with me (although the publishers may disagree).

It harms no one, delights and satisfies many...I don't get the controversy, frankly.



  • At 7:00 AM, Blogger Elayne said…

    I have a theory as to "get why fan ART is somehow okay, but fan WRITING is obviously the work of morons and regression cases." I think it's primarily a time management consideration. Writing just doesn't take as much time as art. If someone's going to sit still for as long as it takes to draw even one panel of fan-level art, it's something of an accomplishment. Also, many vocal online fans don't "read" art as well as they read writing, and may not recognize a lower crafting level when they see it. I think at least a third of the comics produced today have art that would only have been good enough for fanzines a couple decades ago.

  • At 10:04 AM, Blogger kadymae said…

    Elayne, I think the fact that writing is devalued stems from the fact that it's so common.

    From kindergarten through 12 grade we are taught how to write.

    The same does not go with art. Art training is minimal, optional, and must be sought out.

    Thus it's a rarer skill and more valued.

    A pity it is that so few realize that while everybody is taught to write in their K-12 instruction, learning how to write well is also a rare and worked hard for skill.

  • At 10:49 AM, Blogger Brett said…

    I think good writting is far less common than good art is. Fan fiction is a good way to practice writing, but ultimately it traps the writer, as it never really belongs to them, it belongs to the copyright holders. Anyway, I don't think that 'everyone writes', everyone can write their name, but good fiction writting is very, very rare.

  • At 11:16 AM, Blogger Sarah said…

    "I also think it makes swell practice for aspiring writers, particularly genre authors. I think it's crucial to know when to put fan-fic away, if one is genuinely trying to get one's work published."

    But this usually isn't the case. There are many, many, many fanfiction writers who aren't interested in having their writing published professionally. They already *have* careers; writing fanfic is something they can do for pleasure and share without suffering through the rigamarole of getting published. This doesn't mean they can't aspire to and achieve a very high standard of craft, any more than an amateur carpenter devoted to his work can't turn out very fine pieces. (True, most don't, but that's not because they're amateurs per se.) These people *aren't* "aspiring writers," they're just...writers.

    So the general characterization of fanfic as "training wheels" actually turns on two false assumptions: (1) that everyone's aim is to be published and (2) that pro writing is somehow inherently more "real" or "better," instead of just different. Personally, I'm not sure that fanfic *is* good practice for pro fic, except in the sense that it lets you gain confidence and discipline. But I am sure that writing for pleasure can be a satisfying hobby and can result in some excellent work.

  • At 12:21 PM, Blogger Gail Simone said…

    That's why I said, "IF ONE IS," Sarah. It's fine if it's just a hobby, or not, it makes little difference to me.

    But every pro writer gets confronted with a zillion aspiring pros yearly, and a good many of them write fan-fic. I don't see how that statement is open to debate, actually.


  • At 12:26 PM, Blogger Ragnell said…

    Fan art vs Fan writing -- what's wierd here is that the fan art that gets passed around and linked to on non-fandom sites is generally very good, and people want to praise it and show it off.

    The fan fiction that gets emailed around and linked to on non-fandom sites is generally so people can make fun of it.

    I think that may have something to do with how people see it.
    Pro work -- It's considered inherently better is because people assume if you get paid for it, you have skill (though I've seen fanfiction and blog analysis which were better than some pro work actually). With fanfiction, the strength is its weakness -- anyone can write, and anyone can put it out so a lot of people consider it not worth reading.

    Which is pretty bad, since if you look back at all the great folktales and legends (King Arthur, the Olympians, Tall Tales we read in elementary school) it's all fanfiction. Characters people loved and loved to talk about and made up their own stories to entertain themselves with. And nowadays, that's considered a bad thing or "illegitimate" and we worry about getting sued (even though no one makes money off of fanfic).

    I cross my fingers everytime we link a fanfic site on WFA, hoping no one gets in trouble for it!

  • At 2:54 PM, Blogger Harvey Jerkwater said…

    Elayne makes a lot of sense: bad writing is easy to spot and critique. Explaining why bad art is bad takes a special vocabulary and comfort with art.

    I think there's also the content of the fan works themselves. Ninety-plus percent of fan art simply shows the characters as we've always seen them: Batman posing, Superman flying, Green Lantern getting hit in the head.

    Fan fiction, on the other hand, puts these characters into action, often into situations they've never been in before. If action defines character, and the writer has the protagonist act in bizarro ways, she's redefining the character in ways many folks may not like.

    My guess is that a picture of Wonder Woman with a distorted arm is still Wonder Woman to most observers, but a story about Wonder Woman rushing to catch a bus, living on Doritos, and playing darts with Lafcadio the Deadly Polka Thief of Milwaukee is not. The bus-running, Dorito-munching, dart-throwing Wonder Woman would instead be regarded as simply Phineas Q. Fanboy's distorted version of Wonder Woman.

    Then, as everyone's mentioned, there's the difficulty of writing a piece that's both in character and interesting. Yikes. Grasping a character's flavor and translating that flavor into appropriate and cool action isn't simple.

  • At 4:33 PM, Blogger matterconsumer said…

    In addition to skill, talent, and experience pro writing is or should be better because of editing.

  • At 12:12 AM, Blogger David J Oakes said…

    Why doesn't fanfic get the same level of appreciation as fan art? Because comics are drawn.

    If I write "Needful Things... Again" or "David Oakes' Danielle Steel's Lace Returns", no matter how bad it is - and bad fanfic isn;t limited to comic books - it will be judged solely on it's own merits as prose. But no matter how absolutely stunning a Superman story I write, it isn;t a *real* Superman story. Not because I am not in the employ of DC Comics, but because it is prose, not comics. No matter how pitiful a picture of Superman I put on the page, it is still Superman.

    As much as we like to talk about the synthesis of the medium, Art without Words is still "comics". But Words without Art isn't.

  • At 7:00 AM, Blogger Mark "Puff" Anderson said…

    Appreciate the commentary on fan-fictioneering as one who engages in "training wheels" or hobby writing, which is exactly the way that I view the process.

    And, no, I'm not going to whip everybody with a link or a sample.

    The attempt by another poster to coach it as writing doesn't take as much time as art is ludicrous. If you are going to write a good story, you had better take the time to make it right. Pablum is pablum.

    Writing in a four color medium is underrated in the extreme. Look no further than the early days of Image and my point is made without another word being typed.

    And obviously someone leaked my upcoming "Wonder Woman Eats Doritos" story. HA!

    I'm a 40 year old fan-fictioneer who does it as a hobby and to stay connected to my youth. And I want to write a good story.

    Two or three of my fellow travellers have started the process of "putting away their children's toys" and either have a novel published or are about to. So the writing is on the wall for me to either "put up or shut up."

    I disagree with the idea that a Superman story without pictures isn't a Superman story. Before the current era, there were text pieces in a lot of comic books. It is just Superman in another media where the pictures are painted with words instead of pencil and ink or film, for that matter.

    Mark "Puff" Anderson

  • At 2:24 PM, Blogger Jason Alan said…

    Hey Gail, Jason Alan from cX forums here. I just want to say that what you said was very well put. Bravo! *applauds*

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